“I took two risks,” Javier Evelyn said. “The first was quitting my job in insurance. I took a leap of faith to get into a new industry, and applied to Mobile Makers. When I graduated in June, I was going down one track: to be a mobile developer. Then I had to weather the storm. I started interviewing in Chicago, getting to third- and fourth-round interviews, yet I didn’t receive the opportunity that I was aiming for. I didn’t want to settle after so much hard work and prayer.”
That led to the second risk: “A recruiter contacted me from Detroit with two companies looking for an iOS Developer. I thought, 'Detroit? Didn’t they just announce bankruptcy?’ But I got an offer from MeridianRx, and I decided to take it. I started in September, and a week later I called my wife in Chicago and said, ‘Come on up.’”
A Chicago native, Javier had been working as a business manager in his family’s insurance business. “I was always thinking it would be awesome if there was an app for this or that. Then I did a wireframe for our company's website redesign and its mobile website, which we contracted out. I saw what they did and thought, ‘You can get paid for that?’ So I started doing some design in HTML and CSS for a friend’s company, and for the first time in years I was challenged, and I realized I had been going through the motions in sales.
"The goal of Mobile Makers is to make you employable or ready to make your own apps, and it did make me employable. I can say that within the timeframe I had to get into this industry, it wouldn’t have been possible without me joining Mobile Makers, for sure.
"It’s all about getting the foundational tools, making yourself conversational in the language. Anybody who says this class didn’t teach them enough really didn’t get the point. This isn’t a four-year degree, it isn’t a two-year program; it’s an eight-week course to introduce you to a brand new field. You get the basics and you have to take the initiative to learn things on the side. It’s not, 'What are the answers? Okay, I’ve got the answer, cool,’ because that’s not going to be the answer to a real-life scenario. You have to ask yourself, 'Why did you do it that way?'”
“They say that once you’re a programmer, you’re going to learn for the rest of your life,” a maxim Javier is definitely embracing. Joining one other mobile developer already working at MeridianRx, Javier is learning every day as he works, primarily on three enterprise apps. For instance, he says, “Now that I’m prototyping apps in a business, there are security issues that I need to take into consideration from the beginning, to ensure a smooth transition from app development through security approvals.”
He reads technical articles constantly and came across Apportable, an app that ports Xcode to Java for Android apps. His company is very supportive of new initiatives, and told him to look into it. “I’m researching the tool, but in case it doesn’t work, I also dove into Java. Because of Mobile Makers, my approach to the learning process was a lot more structured—I could tell what resources were credible and I knew where to start. There are so many resources out there, if you don’t understand what’s going on, that’s not going to be helpful in the future. Ultimately, Mobile Makers allows you to break down the learning process, especially if you want to learn something quickly.”
That applies to more than just code, he says. ”Once you get into programming, you start to look at everything in a different way, not just code. It sounds 100 percent nerdy, but I’m just going to put it out there: The inner geek inside of me is no longer inside of me; it’s all over the place. For Christmas, my wife got me one of those $25 Raspberry Pi microcomputers, and I’m going to start doing projects on it. You learn one thing, and all of a sudden you can learn anything.
"I don’t even watch TV anymore. I want to learn Latin, too, because it’s the base of all languages. Learning opens up your eyes. In any profession, you can get to a point where you think you know it all and you’re comfortable doing your job, and you can just coast until retirement. But I think this can be a different narrative. If I keep learning, then when I do get to retirement age I’ll be sharp. I’ll still have that love of learning and I’ll want to pass that on to the next generation.
“It’s a 180-degree shift from telling people I sell insurance,” he says. “When I say, ‘I build apps,’ they just want to talk to me. It’s a great conversation starter, and I can have a lot of pride in it, especially the way it was accomplished.”
There’s another benefit Javier has discovered, too. “Mobile Makers introduced me to [a more recent grad], and I introduced him to a job opportunity I heard about, and now he has a job. In this ecosystem when you’re a programmer, you want to pay it forward. I had a lot of guys along the way who said, 'This guy still has a long way to go, but I’m going to help him out.' I think that one of the most important things that keeps this kind of program going, is connecting with the alumni and paying it forward over and over again. When I got my job, I sent Mobile Makers an email saying, 'Mission accomplished.' Then a couple months later someone’s sending me the same message. That’s very rewarding.